I work at a church, and right now I’m spending a lot of time trying to teach kids about sin, specifically about repentance and forgiveness. These kids are old enough to have a pretty good handle on telling the difference between right and wrong, but getting them to say “I forgive you” and mean it is a different story. Getting yourself right with God (or the Gods) and your fellow human beings are big parts of many religions, and huge plot points of many of our most popular stories.
You’ve seen the movies, you’ve read the books; cross-dressing is a common theme in fiction. It’s in mythology, history, folklore, literature, operas, plays, movies, television, and even music. Most importantly though, it has caught the attention of the alternative and dare I say? nerdy aspects in the pop-culture experience that we call life.
There are a few different kinds of plot points based on cross dressing. A very popular one, especially by those such as Shakespeare is one I like to call: Girls in Caps and Trousers. Women dressing as men have been both a cultural and historical phenomena. Some are trying to find their lost loves, some to fight in a war, and some just want the same privileges and opportunities their brothers get. Since there are many of examples of this particular trope (Japanese anime has hundreds of them) I will stick to only a couple.
Personally, I’m not the biggest slash fan. Oh, I’ll read it. I’ll read the hell out of it. But there’s always something about a story that doesn’t involve slash that just pulls me in. Of course, seeing as this is fanfiction, finding one that’s slash free and well written presents a challenge in and of itself. This brings me to Secret Keeper by ermalope.
This particular fic features a budding friendship between, of all people, Severus Snape and James Potter. I’ve actually read a number of believable fics between these two—surprisingly slash fics, but I digress—but this one is probably my favorite.
During the first war with Voldemort, when the Potters go into hiding to protect their son, Dumbledore suspects that one of James’s friends has betrayed them. Furthermore, they need a secret keeper Voldemort would not suspect. Though James and Lily are adamant in choosing either Sirius or Peter, Dumbledore suggests—you guessed it!—Severus Snape.
This suggestion does not go over well.
And it’s nice to see that it takes both a while to convince the Potters and Snape that this is merely the safest option, and not that it is a ploy by Dumbledore for entertainment value. And while the fic is mostly very serious, ermalope does spice it up with some added bits of humor, especially in the dialogue.
Dumbledore finished his tea and said, “So, to business. Can you guess what this little side project of yours will entail?”
“Not telling anyone else that I’m the secret keeper of the Potters,” Severus muttered.
“I can’t even tell him? I would never have guessed,” Severus said in the same miserable monotone. Dumbledore smiled humourlessly.
Because the Potters were in such a rush to cast the Fidelus Charm, and because they cannot leave their home for their own safety, it falls to Severus to bring them supplies every week or so, a task he does not enjoy.
Potter’s eyes narrowed, but he stepped back to let Severus in. “What are you doing here?” he spat as he watched Severus materialize out of thin air.
“Believe me Potter, if I didn’t have to be -” he stopped, and said in a more silky voice, “I’d expect more gratitude from you. I am saving your life. Part of this duty requires me to ensure that you don’t starve, as much as it would satisfy me if you did.”
Potter’s eyes, which had been still narrowed in intense dislike, widened – now horrified. “Couldn’t someone else… Sirius, or Peter, or… anyone do that?”
“Of course, Potter, practically everyone was falling over themselves to offer, but I, personally, couldn’t refuse such an honour,” Severus sneered.
The friendship between the two is slow going. While James is the one to push for it more, Severus doesn’t forgive easily, and he has an understandably hard time letting go of all the horrible things James subjected him to while in school, which does halt any progress the two make in getting along significantly.
On top of all this, McGonagall doesn’t trust Snape, and she also enlists one of his students to follow him around and spy on him while he’s teaching at Hogwarts. Furthermore, once James gets back his invisibility cloak and starts going out, it creates more problems. The one scene where these two issues collide into each other in the latest chapter is quite memorable. Needless to say, Severus’s reaction to the Potters leaving their hiding place brings out a few laughs, especially because by the time that happens, he has grown to care for James just a little.
Severus almost toppled out of his desk chair. “Wha – Potter! How – WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
“Look, Snape, I don’t like it any more than you do. But I had to contact you.”
“You could have just used a patronus, like EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ORDER!” Severus shouted.
“Where’s the fun in that, though?” James grinned, seating himself at a desk in the very front row.
“This isn’t a game, Potter!” Severus snarled.
James frowned at a potion stain in the middle of his desk, and then glanced up at Severus. “Look, I know. I do. I thought that a patronus showing up might be a tad disruptive in the middle of one of your classes, so I came here myself and waited for you to be free. We need your help.”
“What, did the Dark Lord show up at your doorstep?” snarled Severus.
“Not yet. But Dolohov did.”
Severus said nothing for a moment, but smiled lazily. “Ah. So. You’ve come to beg me to –” his smile vanished. “Hang on a second. Dolohov is right outside your house because you got yourself caught in a pub, and you react by leaving your hiding place to tell me about it?”
James raised one eyebrow. “It would appear that way, wouldn’t it?”
“How are you still alive, Potter?”
Eventually, during this conversation, the aforementioned student walks in.
Unfortunately, Severus didn’t get the chance to elaborate on those feelings, because they had been intruded upon. Charity Burbage had wandered into the classroom several moments ago and had been staring from one man to the other silently, eyes wide, for those past several moments.
They stared back. In that instant in which the back of his mind whirred for a solution to this dilemma, Severus somehow noticed how remarkably like a deer caught in the wand-light James Potter looked when he was startled.
After that instant, he came to his senses and snapped, “Can I help you, Miss Burbage?” as though she had interrupted an ordinary discussion between himself and another staff member.
“Uh –” she said. “I was just – I’m just a little early. For class.”
Severus stared at her. “Class starts in an hour and a half.”
It was Charity’s turn to blink. “Does it? I’ll go, then.” She all but ran from the room.
James smirked. “I’m a little early for class, Professor. Who was that?”
“Oh, no one,” Severus replied ferociously. “You know. Just one other person who has seen you! Not only that, she’s seen you with me! I’ll have to wipe her memory or something.”
James snorted. “And I bet you will.”
Severus continued, oblivious to James’s quip. “Dumbledore will never let me do that, of course. Maybe I should reason with him. What matters now is Dolohov.”
As of current, Secret Keeper is fifteen chapters long, with over forty-thousand words. It’s another story that hasn’t yet been completed, but neither is it abandoned. Ermalope has done an amazingly good job on this story thus far, and it is something that I look forward to reading whenever I see an update. Check it out here, and leave the author a comment or two if you like it.
Those of us here at LGG&F worked tirelessly to compile and vote on the Top 10 canon and Top 10 fanon pairings in Geekdom. You have no idea how hard it was to come to a consensus on what was actually canon or not!